God's judgments. (1-14) Exhortations to fasting and prayer; blessings promised. (15-27) A promise of the Holy Spirit, and of future mercies. (28-32)
Verses 1-14 The priests were to alarm the people with the near approach of the Divine judgments. It is the work of ministers to warn of the fatal consequences of sin, and to reveal the wrath from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The striking description which follows, shows what would attend the devastations of locusts, but may also describe the effects from the ravaging of the land by the Chaldeans. If the alarm of temporal judgments is given to offending nations, how much more should sinners be warned to seek deliverance from the wrath to come! Our business therefore on earth must especially be, to secure an interest in our Lord Jesus Christ; and we should seek to be weaned from objects which will soon be torn from all who now make idols of them. There must be outward expressions of sorrow and shame, fasting, weeping, and mourning; tears for trouble must be turned into tears for the sin that caused it. But rending the garments would be vain, except their hearts were rent by abasement and self-abhorrence; by sorrow for their sins, and separation from them. There is no question but that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive them; but whether he will remove affliction is not promised, yet the probability of it should encourage us to repent.
Verses 15-27 The priests and rulers are to appoint a solemn fast. The sinner's supplication is, Spare us, good Lord. God is ready to succour his people; and he waits to be gracious. They prayed that God would spare them, and he answered them. His promises are real answers to the prayers of faith; with him saying and doing are not two things. Some understand these promises figuratively, as pointing to gospel grace, and as fulfilled in the abundant comforts treasured up for believers in the covenant of grace.
Verses 28-32 The promise began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and it was continued in the converting grace and miraculous gifts conferred on both Jews and Gentiles. The judgments of God upon a sinful world, only go before the judgment of the world in the last day. Calling on God supposes knowledge of him, faith in him, desire toward him, dependence on him, and, as evidence of the sincerity of all this, conscientious obedience to him. Those only shall be delivered in the great day, who are now effectually called from sin to God, from self to Christ, from things below to things above.
Joel 2:1-32 . THE COMING JUDGMENT A MOTIVE TO REPENTANCE. PROMISE OF BLESSINGS IN THE LAST DAYS.
A more terrific judgment than that of the locusts is foretold, under imagery drawn from that of the calamity then engrossing the afflicted nation. He therefore exhorts to repentance, assuring the Jews of Jehovah's pity if they would repent. Promise of the Holy Spirit in the last days under Messiah, and the deliverance of all believers in Him.
1. Blow . . . trumpet--to sound an alarm of coming war ( Numbers 10:1-10 Hosea 5:8 Amos 3:6 ); the office of the priests. Joel 1:15 is an anticipation of the fuller prophecy in this chapter.
2. darkness . . . gloominess . . . clouds . . . thick darkness--accumulation of synonyms, to intensify the picture of calamity ( Isaiah 8:22 ). Appropr iate here, as the swarms of locusts intercepting the sunlight suggested darkness as a fit image of the coming visitation.
as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people--Substitute a comma for a colon after mountains: As the morning light spreads itself over the mountains, so a people numerous [MAURER] and strong shall spread themselves. The suddenness of the rising of the morning light, which gilds the mountain tops first, is less probably thought by others to be the point of comparison to the sudden inroad of the foe. MAURER refers it to the yellow splendor which arises from the reflection of the sunlight on the wings of the immense hosts of locusts as they approach. This is likely; understanding, however, that the locusts are only the symbols of human foes. The immense Assyrian host of invaders under Sennacherib (compare Isaiah 37:36 ) destroyed by God ( Joel 2:18 Joel 2:20 Joel 2:21 ), may be the primary objects of the prophecy; but ultimately the last antichristian confederacy, destroyed by special divine interposition, is meant
there hath not been ever the like--(Compare Joel 1:2 , Exodus 10:14 ).
3. before . . . behind--that is, on every side ( 1 Chronicles 19:10 ).
fire . . . flame--destruction . . . desolation ( Isaiah 10:17 ).
as . . . Eden . . . wilderness--conversely ( Isaiah 51:3 , Ezekiel 36:35 ).
4. appearance . . . of horses--( Revelation 9:7 ). Not literal, but figurative locusts. The fifth trumpet, or first woe, in the parallel passage ( Revelation 9:1-11 ), cannot be literal: for in Revelation 9:11 it is said, "they had a king over them, the angel of the bottomless pit"--in the Hebrew, Abaddon ("destroyer"), but in the Greek, Apollyon--and ( Revelation 9:7 ) "on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men." Compare Joel 2:11 , "the day of the Lord . . . great and very terrible"; implying their ultimate reference to be connected with Messiah's second coming in judgment. The locust's head is so like that of a horse that the Italians call it cavalette. Compare Job 39:20 , "the horse . . . as the grasshopper," or locust.
run--The locust bounds, not unlike the horse's gallop, raising and letting down together the two front feet.
5. Like the noise of chariots--referring to the loud sound caused by their wings in motion, or else the movement of their hind legs.
on the tops of mountains--MAURER connects this with "they," that is, the locusts, which first occupy the higher places, and thence descend to the lower places. It may refer (as in English Version) to "chariots," which make most noise in crossing over rugged heights.
6. much pained--namely, with terror. The Arab proverb is, "More terrible than the locusts."
faces shall gather blackness--( Isaiah 13:8 , Jeremiah 30:6 , Nahum 2:10 ). MAURER translates, "withdraw their brightness," that is, wax pale, lose color (compare Joel 2:10 , Joel 3:15 ).
7-9. Depicting the regular military order of their advance, "One locust not turning a nail's breadth out of his own place in the march" [JEROME]. Compare Proverbs 30:27 , "The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands."
8. Neither shall one thrust another--that is, press upon so as to thrust his next neighbor out of his place, as usually occurs in a large multitude.
when they fall upon the sword--that is, among missiles.
not be wounded--because they are protected by defensive armor [GROTIUS]. MAURER translates, "Their (the locusts') ranks are not broken when they rush among missiles" (compare Daniel 11:22 ).
9. run to and fro in the city--greedily seeking what they can devour.
the wall--surrounding each house in Eastern buildings.
enter in at the windows--though barred.
like a thief--( John 10:1 ; compare Jeremiah 9:21 ).
10. earth . . . quake before them--that is, the inhabitants of the earth quake with fear of them.
heavens . . . tremble--that is, the powers of heaven ( Matthew 24:29 ); its illumining powers are disturbed by the locusts which intercept the sunlight with their dense flying swarms. These, however, are but the images of revolutions of states caused by such foes as were to invade Judea.
11. Lord . . . his army--So among Mohammedans, "Lord of the locusts" is a title of God.
his voice--His word of command to the locusts, and to the antitypical human foes of Judea, as "His army."
strong that executeth his word--( Revelation 18:8 ).
12. With such judgments impending over the Jews, Jehovah Himself urges them to repentance.
also now--Even now, what none could have hoped or believed possible, God still invites you to the hope of salvation.
fasting . . . weeping . . . mourning--Their sin being most heinous needs extraordinary humiliation. The outward marks of repentance are to signify the depth of their sorrow for sin.
13. Let there be the inward sorrow of heart, and not the mere outward manifestation of it by "rending the garment" ( Joshua 7:6 ).
the evil--the calamity which He had threatened against the impenitent.
14. leave . . . a meat offering and a drink offering--that is, give plentiful harvests, out of the first-fruits of which we may offer the meat and drink offering, now "cut off" through the famine ( Joel 1:9 Joel 1:13 Joel 1:16 ). "Leave behind Him": as God in visiting His people now has left behind Him a curse, so He will, on returning to visit them, leave behind Him a blessing.
15. Blow the trumpet--to convene the people ( Numbers 10:3 ). Compare Joel 1:14 . The nation was guilty, and therefore there must be a national humiliation. Compare Hezekiah's proceedings before Sennacherib's invasion ( 2 Chronicles 30:1-27 ).
16. sanctify the congregation--namely, by expiatory rites and purification with water [CALVIN], ( Exodus 19:10 Exodus 19:22 ). MAURER translates, "appoint a solemn assembly," which would be a tautological repetition of Joel 2:15 .
elders . . . children--No age was to be excepted ( 2 Chronicles 20:13 ).
bridegroom--ordinarily exempted from public duties ( Deuteronomy 24:5 ; compare 1 Corinthians 7:5 1 Corinthians 7:29 ).
closet--or, nuptial bed, from a Hebrew root "to cover," referring to the canopy over it.
17. between the porch and . . . altar--the porch of Solomon's temple on the east ( 1 Kings 6:3 ); the altar of burnt offerings in the court of the priests, before the porch ( 2 Chronicles 8:12 ; compare Ezekiel 8:16 , Matthew 23:35 ). The suppliants thus were to stand with their backs to the altar on which they had nothing to offer, their faces towards the place of the Shekinah presence.
heathen should rule over them--This shows that not locusts, but human foes, are intended. The Margin translation, "use a byword against them," is not supported by the Hebrew.
wherefore should they say . . . Where is their God?--that is, do not for thine own honor's sake, let the heathen sneer at the God of Israel, as unable to save His people ( Psalms 79:10 , 115:2 ).
18. Then--when God sees His people penitent.
be jealous for his land--as a husband jealous of any dishonor done to the wife whom he loves, as if done to himself. The Hebrew comes from an Arabic root, "to be flushed in face" through indignation.
19. corn . . . wine . . . oil--rather, as Hebrew, "the corn . . . the wine . . . the oil," namely, which the locusts have destroyed [HENDERSON]. MAURER not so well explains, "the corn, &c., necessary for your sustenance." "The Lord will answer," namely, the prayers of His people, priests, and prophets. Compare in the case of Sennacherib, 2 Kings 19:20 2 Kings 19:21 .
20. the northern army--The Hebrew expresses that the north in relation to Palestine is not merely the quarter whence the invader comes, but is his native land, "the Northlander"; namely, the Assyrian or Babylonian (compare Jeremiah 1:14 Jeremiah 1:15 , Zephaniah 2:13 ). The locust's native country is not the north, but the south, the deserts of Arabia, Egypt, and Libya. Assyria and Babylon are the type and forerunner of all Israel's foes (Rome, and the final Antichrist), from whom God will at last deliver His people, as He did from Sennacherib ( 2 Kings 19:35 ).
face . . . hinder part--more applicable to a human army's van and rear, than to locusts. The northern invaders are to be dispersed in every other direction but that from which they had come: "a land barren and desolate," that is, Arabia-Deserta: "the eastern (or front) sea," that is, the Dead Sea: "the utmost (or hinder) sea," that is, the Mediterranean. In front and behind mean east and west; as, in marking the quarters of the world, they faced the east, which was therefore "in front"; the west was behind them; the south was on their right, and the north on their left.
stink--metaphor from locusts, which perish when blown by a storm into the sea or the desert, and emit from their putrefying bodies such a stench as often breeds a pestilence.
because he hath done great things--that is, because the invader hath haughtily magnified himself in his doings. Compare as to Sennacherib, 2 Kings 19:11-13 2 Kings 19:22 2 Kings 19:28 . This is quite inapplicable to the locusts, who merely seek food, not self-glorification, in invading a country.
21-23. In an ascending gradation, the land destroyed by the enemy, the beasts of the field, and the children of Zion, the land's inhabitants, are addressed, the former two by personification.
Lord will do great things--In contrast to the "great things" done by the haughty foe ( Joel 2:20 ) to the hurt of Judah stand the "great things" to be done by Jehovah for her benefit (compare Psalms 126:2 Psalms 126:3 ).
22. ( Zechariah 8:12 ). As before ( Joel 1:18 Joel 1:20 ) he represented the beasts as groaning and crying for want of food in the "pastures," so now he reassures them by the promise of springing pastures.
23. rejoice in the Lord--not merely in the springing pastures, as the brute "beasts" which cannot raise their thoughts higher ( Isaiah 61:10 , Habakkuk 3:18 ).
former rain . . . the rain . . . the former . . . the latter rain--The autumnal, or "former rain," from the middle of October to the middle of December, is put first, as Joel prophesies in summer when the locusts' invasion took place, and therefore looks to the time of early sowing in autumn, when the autumnal rain was indispensably required. Next, "the rain," generically, literally, "the showering" or "heavy rain." Next, the two species of the latter, "the former and the latter rain" (in March and April). The repetition of the "former rain" implies that He will give it not merely for the exigence of that particular season when Joel spake, but also for the future in the regular course of nature, the autumn and the spring rain; the former being put first, in the order of nature, as being required for the sowing in autumn, as the latter is required in spring for maturing the young crop. The Margin, "a teacher of righteousness," is wrong. For the same Hebrew word is translated "former rain" in the next sentence, and cannot therefore be differently translated here. Besides, Joel begins with the inferior and temporal blessings, and not till Joel 2:28 proceeds to the higher and spiritual ones, of which the former are the pledge.
moderately--rather, "in due measure," as much as the land requires; literally, "according to right"; neither too much nor too little, either of which extremes would hurt the crop (compare Deuteronomy 11:14 , Proverbs 16:15 , Jeremiah 5:24 ; is parallel to "in the first month," in the last clause (that is, "in the month when first it is needed," each rain in its proper season). Heretofore the just or right order of nature has been interrupted through your sin; now God will restore it.
24. The effect of the seasonable rains shall be abundance of all articles of food.
25. locust . . . cankerworm . . . caterpiller . . . palmer worm--the reverse order from Joel 1:4 , where by the full-grown consuming locust, but also what has been lost by the less destructive licking locust, and swarming locust, and gnawing locust.
26. never be ashamed--shall no longer endure the "reproach of the heathen ( Joel 2:17 ), [MAURER]; or rather, "shall not bear the shame of disappointed hopes," as the husbandmen had heretofore ( Joel 1:11 ). So spiritually, waiting on God, His people shall not have the shame of disappointment in their expectations from Him ( Romans 9:33 ).
27. know that I am in the midst of Israel--As in the Old Testament dispensation God was present by the Shekinah, so in the New Testament first, for a brief time by the Word made flesh dwelling among us ( John 1:14 ), and to the close of this dispensation by the Holy Spirit in the Church ( Matthew 28:20 ), and probably in a more perceptible manner with Israel when restored ( Ezekiel 37:26-28 ).
never be ashamed--not an unmeaning repetition from Joel 2:26 . The twice-asserted truth enforces its unfailing certainty. As the "shame" in Joel 2:26 refers to temporal blessings, so in this verse it refers to the spiritual blessings flowing from the presence of God with His people (compare Jeremiah 3:16 Jeremiah 3:17 , Revelation 21:3 ).
28. afterward--"in the last days" ( Isaiah 2:2 ) under Messiah after the invasion and deliverance of Israel from the northern army. Having heretofore stated the outward blessings, he now raises their minds to the expectation of extraordinary spiritual blessings, which constitute the true restoration of God's people ( Isaiah 44:3 ). Fulfilled in earnest ( Acts 2:17 ) on Pentecost; among the Jews and the subsequent election of a people among the Gentiles; hereafter more fully at the restoration of Israel ( Isaiah 54:13 , Jeremiah 31:9 Jeremiah 31:34 , Ezekiel 39:29 , Zechariah 12:10 ) and the consequent conversion of the whole world ( Isaiah 2:2 , 11:9 , 66:18-23 , Micah 5:7 , Romans 11:12 Romans 11:15 ). As the Jews have been the seedmen of the elect Church gathered out of Jews and Gentiles, the first Gospel preachers being Jews from Jerusalem, so they shall be the harvest men of the coming world-wide Church, to be set up at Messiah's appearing. That the promise is not restricted to the first Pentecost appears from Peter's own words: "The promise is (not only) unto you and to your children, (but also) to all that are afar off (both in space and in time), even as many as the Lord our God shall call" ( Acts 2:39 ). So here "upon all flesh."
I will pour out--under the new covenant: not merely, let fall drops, as under the Old Testament ( John 7:39 ).
my spirit--the Spirit "proceeding from the Father and the Son," and at the same time one with the Father and the Son (compare Isaiah 11:2 ).
sons . . . daughters . . . old . . . young--not merely on a privileged few ( Numbers 11:29 ) as the prophets of the Old Testament, but men of all ages and ranks. See Acts 21:9 , 1 Corinthians 11:5 , as to "daughters," that is, women, prophesying.
dreams . . . visions--( Acts 9:10 , 16:9 ). The "dreams" are attributed to the "old men," as more in accordance with their years; "visions" to the "young men," as adapted to their more lively minds. The three modes whereby God revealed His will under the Old Testament ( Numbers 12:6 ), "prophecy, dreams, and visions," are here made the symbol of the full manifestation of Himself to all His people, not only in miraculous gifts to some, but by His indwelling Spirit to all in the New Testament ( John 14:21 John 14:23 , 15:15 ). In Acts 16:9 , 18:9 , the term used is "vision," though in the night, not a dream. No other dream is mentioned in the New Testament save those given to Joseph in the very beginning of the New Testament, before the full Gospel had come; and to the wife of Pilate, a Gentile ( Matthew 1:20 , 2:13 , 27:19 ). "Prophesying" in the New Testament is applied to all speaking under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and not merely to foretelling events. All true Christians are "priests" and "ministers" of our God ( Isaiah 61:6 ), and have the Spirit ( Ezekiel 36:26 Ezekiel 36:27 ). Besides this, probably, a special gift of prophecy and miracle-working is to be given at or before Messiah's coming again.
29. And also--"And even." The very slaves by becoming the Lord's servants are His freemen ( 1 Corinthians 7:22 , Galatians 3:28 , Colossians 3:11 , 1:16 ). Therefore, in Acts 2:18 it is quoted, "My servants" and "My handmaidens"; as it is only by becoming the Lord's servants they are spiritually free, and partake of the same spirit as the other members of the Church.
30, 31. As Messiah's manifestation is full of joy to believers, so it has an aspect of wrath to unbelievers, which is represented here. Thus when the Jews received Him not in His coming of grace, He came in judgment on Jerusalem. Physical prodigies, massacres, and conflagrations preceded its destruction [JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews]. To these the language here may allude; but the figures chiefly symbolize political revolutions and changes in the ruling powers of the world, prognosticated by previous disasters ( Amos 8:9 , Matthew 24:29 , Luke 21:25-27 ), and convulsions such as preceded the overthrow of the Jewish polity. Such shall probably occur in a more appalling degree before the final destruction of the ungodly world ("the great and terrible day of Jehovah," compare Malachi 4:5 ), of which Jerusalem's overthrow is the type and earnest.
32. call on . . . name of . . . Lord--Hebrew, JEHOVAH. Applied to Jesus in Romans 10:13 (compare Acts 9:14 , 1 Corinthians 1:2 ). Therefore, Jesus is JEHOVAH; and the phrase means, "Call on Messiah in His divine attributes."
shall be delivered--as the Christians were, just before Jerusalem's destruction, by retiring to Pella, warned by the Saviour ( Matthew 24:16 ); a type of the spiritual deliverance of all believers, and of the last deliverance of the elect "remnant" of Israel from the final assault of Antichrist. "In Zion and Jerusalem" the Saviour first appeared; and there again shall He appear as the Deliverer ( Zechariah 14:1-5 ).
as the Lord hath said--Joel herein refers, not to the other prophets, but to his own words preceding.
call--metaphor from an invitation to a feast, which is an act of gratuitous kindness ( Luke 14:16 ). So the remnant called and saved is according to the election of grace, not for man's merits, power, or efforts ( Romans 11:5 ).